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The SEC kicked off the second half of conference play on Tuesday night, with No. 1 Auburn hosting Alabama and Tennessee looking to give Texas A&M its fifth straight loss. There are more than six teams currently fighting for the double-bye in the SEC Tournament, so every game is important right now.
Let’s discuss how Tuesday night played out.
Tennessee defeats Texas A&M 90-80
The Vols (15-6, 6-3) came out on fire, thanks to eight quick points from Josiah-Jordan James, and Tennessee fans finally witnessed their team put together a complete half, especially on the offensive side. They led 43-35 at halftime and forced 13 turnovers from the Aggies (15-7, 4-5). Olivier Nkamhoua scored 11 points, followed by James and Zakai Zeigler with 8 points each. Also, Josiah-Jordan James bounced back after missing that last-second shot at Texas with 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
The second half changed the opinion of the home crowd, at least for about four minutes. The Aggies had cut the lead to 60-59, thanks to a quick spurt and bad shooting from the Vols, but it wasn’t enough for Buzz Williams and his team. Just when you thought we’d have a close finish, the Vols went on a 16-2 run. Justin Powell got in on the action from behind the perimeter, putting the Aggies away once and for all. The Vols had five different players in double-digits, led by Kennedy Chandler, who had 16 points. The team also had 22 assists on 29 made shots. Tennessee stays in the running for a top four seed in the SEC Tournament, with its fourth straight conference win, while Texas A&M has dropped five straight games.
Mississippi State defeats South Carolina 78-64
The Bulldogs came out on fire, led by Garrison Brooks, who scored 17 points in the first half. South Carolina had no answer for the Mississippi State offense and trailed 45-23 at halftime. Even though the Gamecocks play with physicality, they were no match for the Bulldogs. Midway through the second half, the Bulldogs were out-rebounding the Gamecocks 32-16, causing Frank Martin to just throw his hands in the air in disgust. Credit to Mississippi State for taking it to South Carolina, especially in the paint.
The Bulldogs are now (14-7, 5-3) on the season, while the Gamecocks drop to 13-8 and 4-5 in conference play.
No. 1 Auburn defeats Alabama 100-81
Auburn (21-1, 9-0) just keeps rolling, winning its 18th game in a row, this time against Alabama (14-8, 4-5) at home on Tuesday night. The Tigers again played well in the paint, outscoring the Tide 26-8 in the first half and finishing the game with 52 points around the basket. Jaden Shackelford, with his 26 points, plus the 20 points from Jahvon Quinerly, kept Alabama in the game. Though the final score may shock you, this game was actually 57-55 at the 14:06 mark in the 2nd half, before Auburn went on a ridiculous offensive run. Walker Kessler recorded a double-double, with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Wendell Green Jr. put up 23 points.
There’s something special about this Auburn team. This team does not fold under pressure, even when opposing teams try to make life hard for the them on the perimeter. But with players like Jabari Smith and K.D. Johnson bringing the heat every night, this team will continue to be a problem this season. Bruce Pearl has his team believing in everything he’s throwing at them, and they also had a fantastic home-court advantage. Auburn is scary, but you all know that by now.
Ole Miss defeats No. 25 LSU 76-72
LSU entered the game against Ole Miss 1-3 in their last four games, desperately looking for a win. The Tigers lost to TCU on Saturday, and the bad vibes continued Tuesday night. The Rebels were up 29-13 at one point in the first half, and they took a 45-32 lead into halftime. Thanks to a huge night from Daeshun Ruffin, who finished the game with 19 points, the Rebels were able to grab an SEC win on the road. The Tigers looked defeated from the tip, having never led in the game and giving Ole Miss many second chance opportunities at the basket. This was a game the Tigers couldn’t afford to lose, especially against an Ole Miss team that has been rather unimpressive this season. The Rebels, who are now 12-10, ended up getting the win, despite a strong rally from the Tigers towards the end.
The Tigers are now 16-6 and 4-5 in conference play and have lost five of their last six games. This was also the Rebels’ first win over the Tigers since 2013.
Just another wild night in the SEC, with Auburn and Tennessee looking good in the process. Prepare yourself for a wild sprint to the finish of conference play, with everyone chasing the Tigers — the Auburn Tigers, that is — and the SEC Tournament double-bye.